Mayonnaise is one of those ingredients that we always seem to have in the fridge, but never actually make ourselves. It’s no mystery why: The spread is easy to find at any supermarket, and, unless you’re springing for organic or something truffle-flavored, it’s always pretty cheap. Yes, a jar of Hellmann’s might not be the fanciest, but it gets the job done well enough. DIYing it just seems unnecessary—right?
We’re begging you to reconsider. For one, homemade mayonnaise is way more delicious than anything you’d find at the store. Light, airy, and creamy all at once, it is seriously the stuff dreams are made of. But the real boon just might be how little effort it actually requires—less of an effort than getting in your car and driving to the supermarket. All you need are a few ingredients you probably already have in your pantry and either a food processor, blender, or bowl and whisk to mix it all together. It’s really that easy.
“Mayonnaise is a simple, classic sauce that needs only a few basic kitchen staples,” Molly Siegler tells Chowhound. As a classically trained chef and current food editor at Whole Foods, Siegler knows a thing or two about making great mayonnaise. Below, she gives us all her tips and tricks to perfecting the popular condiment.
- Get all your ingredients out.
To make mayo, you’ll need to assemble a few ingredients: eggs, oil, lemon juice or white wine vinegar, salt, and a bit of Dijon or powdered mustard. The type of oil you use comes down to preference or whatever you have in your pantry. Siegler says olive oil, canola oil, or even more exotic oils like walnut or avocado will all work well.
As for the ratios, generally you’ll need one egg to 1 1/4 cups oil, though that will vary depending on the recipe you’re using. Chowhound’s Basic Homemade Mayonnaise is a good basic recipe to use as a guide.
- Whatever you do, don’t mix everything together all at once.
Siegler says that you should never, ever, ever mix all of your ingredients together right away. “Egg-based sauces often break if you add fat too quickly,” she explains. So if you pour your olive oil straight onto the yolks, odds are they’re going to curdle instead of becoming light and fluffy.
- Start by combining the egg yolks and mustard.
“Place the egg yolks at the bottom of the mixing bowl, then add salt and mustard and whisk like crazy,” says Siegler, who prefers to mix them up the old-fashioned way with a bowl and a whisk. (Using a blender or a food processor will create virtually the same results.)
- When to add your lemon juice or vinegar depends on how thick or thin you like your mayo.
“If you like your mayo thick for spreading, wait to add any acid until after you’ve mixed your yolks and oil together,” Siegler explains. “If you need a thinner mayo for a dressing or sauce, you can add the acid to the egg yolk mixture before adding the oil.”
When you’re ready to add your acidic ingredient, toss it in and whisk or blend until it’s fully combined.
- When you’re ready, add your oil—very slowly.
After you’ve whisked the mustard and yolks together, Siegler says you can start adding oil. Pour it into the egg and mustard mixture as slowly as possible while whisking as fast as you can. Otherwise, you run the risk of curdling your mayo. If you’re making mayo with a blender or food processor, pour the oil in a slow stream through the opening at the top while the motor runs until the sauce thickens.
- If you do accidentally curdle your eggs and oil, there are ways you can save it.
“If the sauce does break or curdle, sometimes you can rescue it by just doing a wild round of whisking,” Siegler explains. If a bit of rapid fire whisk action doesn’t save your sauce, she says that adding a splash of warm water and giving it a quick mix may also help.
And if neither of those fixes work, her last resort is to start with a clean bowl, make a new egg and mustard mixture, and—while rapidly whisking—slowly add the broken yolks and oil until everything is fully thickened.
- And ta da—you have mayo. Now get creative with it.
Siegler loves to play around with the types of vinegar she uses in her mayonnaise. For a Spanish-style mayo, she’ll use sherry vinegar as her primary source of acid, and then mix in a dash of paprika for some heat.
If you don’t want to mess with the classic formula, you can still up the flavor of a basic mayo by adding ingredients to the finished product. For a spicy mayo, Siegler likes to add a bit of sambal oelek (Thai hot sauce). For a sweeter sauce, she says a drizzle of honey does wonders.
Try out your homemade mayo in one of these recipes:
1. Grilled Mexican Street Corn
Corn on the cob coated in mayo and cheese may sound weird, but it’s truly a treat. The mayo adds a nice tangy bite that plays well off the sweetness of the kernels and sharp saltiness of the Parmesan cheese. Get the recipe.
2. Pimento Cheese
This southern classic would be nothing without the mayonnaise. The spread creates an ooey, gooey texture that tastes great in anything from grilled cheese to macaroni and cheese. Get our Pimento Cheese recipe.
3. Deviled Eggs with Tarragon
Ever wonder what makes deviled eggs so creamy? The secret is in the mayonnaise, of course. Get our Deviled Eggs with Tarragon recipe.
4. Fresh Spinach Dip
You could make spinach dip with sour cream, but it’s definitely more of an indulgence if you make it with homemade mayo. Get our Fresh Spinach Dip recipe.
5. Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
We know this sounds strange, but mayonnaise in cake is kind of a revelation. It gives the dough a subtle tang that cuts through the richness of the chocolate. And it makes the cake extra moist and fluffy, too. Get the recipe.
6. Tarragon Tuna Melt
Siegler’s favorite thing to do with homemade mayonnaise is to spread it on the outside of grilled cheese sandwiches before she cooks them. “This gives the bread a gorgeous golden color and a can’t-put-your-finger-on-it tanginess,” she says. Try it with this tuna melt. Get the recipe.
— Head photo: Drizzle And Dip.